Australia’s longest-running TV drama Neighbours has been plunged into scandal after a guest actress claimed a racist culture was running ‘rife’ on set.
Shareena Clanton says her six-week stint on Ramsay Street in a guest role was marred by ‘multiple racist traumas’ which have required ongoing counselling.
During filming in January and February this year, the use of racial slurs became so common at least one actor was asked to leave the set and take cultural sensitivity training, Ms Clanton claims.
Australia’s longest-running TV drama Neighbours has been plunged into scandal after Wentworth star and guest actor Shareena Clanton claimed a racist culture was running ‘rife’ on set
The 30-year-old wrote on Instagram: ‘It’s been lonely, triggering and traumatising to work in such a culturally unsafe space,’ adding she would never work for the Network Ten show again.
Within the social media post, the Perth-born actor listed multiple allegations of racist and inappropriate behaviour by senior Neighbours staff and fellow cast members.
Ms Clanton says she fired her agent when he described a senior staff member’s alleged use of the term ‘slave driver’ – in reference to him working hard – as ‘office banter’.
She also claims the set was ‘rife’ with covert levels of racism, citing a white actress openly calling another actress of colour a ‘lil’ monkey’ as an alleged example.
She claims she tried to explain why the slur was so offensive but to no avail and reported the person to HR.
Ms Clanton also says HR were also forced to set up segregated spaces to keep feuding stars apart after the repeated use of the ‘n’ word in front of her, twice on set and in the green room.
But that when she confronted the actor directly she was told to ‘go somewhere else’.
Ms Clanton says her six-week stint on Ramsay Street in a guest role was marred by ‘multiple racist traumas’ which have required ongoing counselling (pictured, Clanton with Colette Mann who is not believed to be involved in the allegations)
Speaking about challenging the alleged use of racist slurs, she told Guardian Australia: ‘A staff member turned to me and told me that I needed to take it somewhere else, because I was making other people uncomfortable’.
Ms Clanton claims the alleged perpetrator was only reprimanded and ordered to attend cultural sensitivity training after they had used the ‘n’ word twice.
In another instance, an actress is accused of openly laughing when the same racist term was used – a claim Ms Clanton said the woman denied when questioned by human resources.
‘She said that I ‘misconstrued’ what she was ‘laughing at’ and that she was laughing at ‘something else’. That is a blatant lie,’ Ms Clanton wrote.
‘The retaliation for calling out this misconduct and racism often left me ostracized and further marginalised.’
Other claims included Ms Clanton paying out of her own pocket to have a Wurundjeri Elder on set for ‘cultural safety reasons’, and a department head laughing when a cast member used a highly sexualised term.
Clanton told Guardian Australia the atmosphere on set was ‘toxic’ and that there was an ‘unhealthy level of silent complicity’ among management as well as her fellow actors.
She said: ‘There was a lot of commentary that was highly inflammatory, sexist, misogynistic, crass and crude – the kind of comments that if I were to make in any other workspace would absolutely [result in] instant dismissal,
‘But somehow people just continued to get a gentle word spoken to them, or have a polite side word between [the alleged culprit] and the person who was offended by what was being said.’
A Fremantle Media spokesperson said the Network Ten soap, now into its 35th year, ‘strives to be a platform for diversity and inclusion on-screen and off-screen’.
‘Our quest is always to continue to grow and develop in this area and we acknowledge that this is an evolving process,’ a statement said.
‘Shareena’s involvement in the creative process and on set was invaluable and hugely educational and will benefit the series moving forward.
‘There have been significant and lengthy discussions with Shareena during her time on Neighbours and we will continue to work with all cast and crew to ensure Neighbours continues to be a fully inclusive environment.’
During filming in January and February this year, Ms Clanton claims the use of racial slurs became so common at least one actor was asked to leave the set and take cultural sensitivity training
Several actors, including her co-star Zoe Terakes, as well as Sharon Johal, and Belinda Bromilow, have publicly stated their support for Ms Clanton.
Ms Clanton’s fellow First Nations actor Meyne Wyatt also tweeted his supported and he said he too had experienced racism on the set.
However, the Wentworth star has also faced a barrage of criticism for speaking out online.
In a second post on Instagram on Wednesday, Ms Clanton showed screenshots of the reaction to her public allegations from Twitter.
Users had termed Ms Clanton a ‘whiner, for sure’, while others said she could ‘kiss goodbye’ to ‘what token career she had’.
Commenting on the responses, she said: ‘I have no qualms critiquing such power structures. What do I have to gain here by speaking truth to one of the most powerful and multi-million dollar global production houses like Freemantle Media? I’m the one being blacklisted.
‘There are many horror stories from other First Nations people and under-represented communities about what they experience on set and in the story rooms. Believe them.’
She added: ‘I stand by my truth and what I said I bore witness to and directly endured.’
The Wentworth star said she feared going public with allegations of racism would damage her career prospects.
Within a social media post, the 30-year-old Perth-born actor listed multiple allegations of racist and inappropriate behaviour by senior Neighbours staff and fellow cast members